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In this study, we estimated exposure for Scrub typhus (STG), Typhus (TG) and Spotted fever groups (SFG) rickettsia using serology at a fine scale (a whole sub-district administration level) of local communities in Nan Province, Thailand. Geographical characteristics of the sub-district were divided into two landscape types: lowland agricultural area in an urbanized setting (lowland-urbanized area) and upland agricultural area located close to a protected area of National Park (upland-forested area). This provided an ideal contrast between the two landscapes with low and high levels of human-altered habitats to study in differences in disease ecology. In total, 824 serum samples of participants residing in the eight villages were tested by screening IgG ELISA, and subsequently confirmed by the gold standard IgG Immunofluorescent Assay (IFA). STG and TG IgG positivity were highest with seroprevalence of 9.8% and 9.0%, respectively; whereas SFG positivity rate was lower at 6.9%. Inhabitants from the villages located in upland-forested area demonstrated significantly higher STG exposure, compared to those villages in the lowland-urbanized area (chi-square = 51.97, p < 0.0001). In contrast, TG exposure was significantly higher in those villagers living in lowland-urbanized area (chi-square = 28.26, p < 0.0001). In addition to the effect of landscape types, generalized linear model (GLM) analysis identified socio-demographic parameters, i.e., gender, occupation, age, educational level, domestic animal ownership (dog, cattle and poultry) as influential factors to explain the level of rickettsial exposure (antibody titers) in the communities. Our findings raise the public health awareness of rickettsiosis as a cause of undiagnosed febrile illness in the communities.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS Negl Trop Dis

Publication Date